THIS afternoon, Sky Television announced a new £600m deal that will enable them to screen all midweek Championship matches. If their officials were at the Stadium of Light tonight, they might well be considering asking for their money back.

This was a wretched advert for Championship football, but an even worse one for Sunderland’s prospects of achieving anything this season. The new Sky deal does not begin until 2019, and goodness knows where the Black Cats will find themselves by then. On this evidence, they might have to concern themselves with the League One television schedule next season.

They are currently just a point clear of the relegation zone, with Daryl Murphy’s 86th-minute winner having condemned them to a second home defeat in the space of four days. Murphy, a former player with both Sunderland and Newcastle, had barely had a kick in the first 85 minutes of the game, yet there was still a powerful sense of inevitability about his late low strike.

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Failure means Sunderland have now gone 15 matches without a home victory, a run that stretches back to last December. When the Black Cats last won at the Stadium of Light, Barack Obama was president of the United States and Theresa May was still five months off calling a general election.

A lot has happened since Patrick van Aanholt netted the winner against Watford, but the malaise on Wearside has remained resolutely unchanged. Niall Quinn spoke of a “gremlin” at Sunderland, Gustavo Poyet bemoaned something “fundamentally wrong with the club”. Simon Grayson is merely discovering the same faults.

Like his predecessors, Grayson has been scratching his head in an attempt to locate the cause of Sunderland’s deep-seated demise. He changed four players from the team that had capitulated against Sheffield United, and even tinkered with his side’s pre-match warm-up routine, switching from the North Stand end of the Stadium of Light to the South. Suffice to say, it didn’t make any difference.

Unlike at the weekend, there was nothing wrong with the attitude of Sunderland’s players, nor with their work rate or commitment. They ran, they chased, they even put in the occasional tackle.

It was the quality that was lacking, and to be fair to Grayson, that is probably what you get when you’re forced to sign pretty much an entire team for a shade over £1m.

The Black Cats lacked a cutting edge from the outset, and the situation only became worse when Lewis Grabban was forced off shortly before half-time after failing to respond to some on-pitch treatment. His replacement, James Vaughan, was playing in League One last season, and has struggled to cope with the step up to the Championship.

Forest goalkeeper Jordan Smith was barely forced to make a save all night, with Sunderland’s attacking play tending to falter whenever the ball got anywhere close to the opposition box.

The few flurries of attacking excitement tended to come from either Jonny Williams or Callum McManaman, with the deadline-day signings at least looking to get on the ball and advance towards the opposition area.

They linked effectively in the 12th minute, with Williams teeing up McManaman in the box, but the winger’s side-footed effort was blocked by Forest skipper Matt Mills.

Mills was at it again shortly after the half-hour mark, throwing himself to the ground to block a shot from George Honeyman after Grabban had failed to make contact with McManaman’s cross.

It was all fairly scrappy, and with Lee Cattermole and Didier Ndong tending to sit deep, the Forest back four were rarely extended.

To be fair, the Sunderland defence were equally untroubled for most of the night, with Robbin Ruiter not called into action at all before the break.

Kieran Dowell and Andreas Bouchalakis fired long-range efforts over the crossbar, while Bryan Oviedo swept up effectively to prevent former Sunderland midfielder Liam Bridcutt from breaking clear in the box.

Forest’s first real opening did not arrive until 11 minutes into the second half, and even then it was snuffed out quickly when McManaman nipped in to steal the ball away from Ben Brereton when he turned in the area. Had the Forest midfielder shot first time, Sunderland could have been in trouble.

The Black Cats’ main second-half threat came courtesy of McManaman, who justified his inclusion in the starting line-up as he looked to cut in from the right-hand side.

One of his best moments came at the start of the second period, but while he spun away from his marker adroitly after picking up the ball from Oviedo, his low effort was saved by Smith at his near post.

Smith was called into action again midway through the second half, clutching Wilson’s header after the Irishman got on to the end of a knock-down from his fellow centre-half Browning, and Williams threatened with eight minutes left when he flashed a long-range effort over the top.

At that stage, a draw looked all but inevitable, but there was to be a sting in the tail and, as is so often the case with Sunderland, the wound was self-inflicted.

Browning conceded possession cheaply in a dangerous area, shuffling the ball to Barrie McKay, and the Forest substitute teed up Murphy for an angled low finish that was clinically dispatched into the corner.

There was a flurry of action as Sunderland desperately tried to fashion an equaliser, but Adam Matthews’ close-range effort was deflected behind and the subsequent corner resulted in a frantic goalmouth scramble that amounted to nothing.

The final whistle brought a chorus of boos, although the overriding sensation was one of grim resignation. Sunderland supporters have seen this before, on 14 separate occasions in fact since December 17.